Juan Diego Flórez: Great Tenor Arias
Arias by Gluck (Orphée et Euridice), Verdi (Un giorno di regno, Rigoletto), Rossini (Semiramide, L’italiana in Algeri), Donizetti (La figlia del reggimento, Lucrezia Borgia), Halévy (La juive), Cimarosa (Il matrimonio segreto), Puccini (Gianni Schicchi).
Juan Diego Flórez, tenor, Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Carlo Rizzi, cond.
London BP0003136 (F) (DDD) TT: 58:20.

This is the third London recital disc of arias, sung by the superb Peruvian tenor, Juan Diego Florez. The first was an all-Rossini recital, followed by a disc of arias by Donizetti and Bellini. On this most recent disc of “Great Tenor Arias,” Rossini and Donizetti have an important presence, but now they are joined by composers representing a broad cross-section of the French and Italian repertoire—Gluck, Halévy, Cimarosa, Verdi, and Puccini. I very much enjoyed Florez’s first Rossini disc, which demonstrated a brilliant technique, aligned with the performer’s obvious joy in singing. Still, I felt the subsequent Donizetti-Bellini represented an improvement over what was already a very impressive effort. I wrote:

"The winning enthusiasm and technical brilliance are still very much in evidence…But on this occasion, these strengths are combined with a vocal timbre that has become warmer and more varied, aligned with a plasticity of phrasing that is at the heart of this repertoire… And his diction, both in Italian and French, is crystal-clear." I did have a few reservations about the Donizetti-Rossini recital, noting: “While Flórez sings with involvement and passion, he does not offer any unique interpretive insights. And the voice occasionally loses a bit of color at the conclusion of phrases.”

No such reservations apply to this new “Great Tenor Arias” recital. All of Florez’s positive attributes are there, in spades. I’m delighted to report that the voice has become even warmer and more attractive than in the Donizetti-Bellini disc. And, unlike that recital, Florez maintains the beautiful, melting quality from beginning to end of each and every phrase (many demonstrating remarkable breath control). I also feel in this recital that the tenor is now more “inside” the different characters he portrays. The rendition of Orphée’s famous lament is a near-perfect balance of pathos and classical elegance. By contrast, the Duke’s famous aria is dashed off with tremendous verve and charm. It’s also rewarding to hear Mr. Florez sing such a wide range of lyric tenor repertoire (including some arias that aren’t recorded all that often), and with such mastery of the various styles.

The recorded sound is excellent, with a natural ambience that shows Mr. Florez’s attributes to best advantage, and presents a realistic between singer and orchestra. Conductor Carlo Rizzi and the Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi provide worthy support. What a pleasure it is to hear a richly-talented young singer who refuses to rest on his laurels, instead constantly searching to improve. That is the mark of a great singer. And a great singer is precisely what Juan Diego Floréz has now become.

K.M. (October 2004)